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TPG reader Abhinav sent me a message on Facebook to ask about a credit card benefit:
“Is the Citi Prestige airline credit available immediately after I get the card, or do I have to wait an entire calendar year before I use it? Also, does it ever expire?”
Some travel rewards cards offer benefits that don’t kick in until the end of your first year as a cardholder. Those benefits (like free hotel nights or bonus points) may justify the annual fee, but you don’t get full value from the card initially since you can’t use them right away. Fortunately, that’s not the case with the Citi Prestige Card.
The Citi Prestige annual $250 Air Travel Credit is the best benefit of its kind. Unlike the airline fee credit on The Platinum Card from American Express (which is only designed to cover incidentals like checked bag fees or in-flight purchases), the Prestige benefit can be used to cover airfare itself. You also don’t have to designate a specific carrier to redeem your benefit, which means you can use it as soon as you receive your card. So long as your account is open and in good standing, you should receive a credit for any qualifying purchases.
The air travel credit is offered annually, but it’s based on your December billing statement, so it doesn’t align perfectly with the calendar year. Qualifying charges made after that will count toward the following year’s credit, and any unused portion of the credit will disappear at that point. To maximize the benefit, make sure you use up the full $250 before your December statement closes.
If you have credit left over but don’t have any immediate travel plans, gift card purchases should be eligible so long as they’re made directly from the airline and not from a third party.
Since the air travel credit renews each year, you can actually use it twice during your first year as a cardmember — once in the year your account is opened, and again the following year. That means you can effectively get $500 of credit in the first 12 months. I think this card is well worth the annual fee thanks to other valuable features like the 4th Night Free hotel benefit. However, if you’re not sure, you can at least try it out for a year and get your money’s worth in airfare.
For more on Citi Prestige and other cards with airline credits, check out these posts:
- Maximizing Benefits with the Citi Prestige Card in 2016
- Top Cards that Offer Credits for Airline Incidentals
- Maximizing Citi Prestige Benefits — TPG Reader Success Story
While Citi announced some negative changes to this card back in July — including a lower sign-up bonus, the elimination of Admirals Club access and the end of the free rounds of golf benefit — one of its most valuable perks still remains, which is the 4th Night Free perk. This benefit alone can save you thousands of dollars a year if you use it to its full advantage.